The joint is called Hahm Ji Bak...and I just got back home from a seriously diesel meal of unmarinated and deliciously salted pork belly with a plethora of side dishes (panchan). Funny story about Korean side dishes - there was this guy who went to a Korean restaurant for the first time...and it is customary for the restaurant to provide several side dishes for patrons. These side dishes usually consist of kimchi and various vegetables and meats. Anyfuckingway...so this guy who goes to the Korean joint for the first time...he sits at the table and the waitress begins to bring all these side dishes out...and the dude's like, "I didn't order this...I don't think it's for me". Yeah...that was a horrible story...
No joke though...this place has got it going on. It's got a sushi/sashimi bar as well but that's pretty moot in my book. The pork belly, called "sam gyup sal", is fairly priced for one order at $18.99 for two thick (though they label it as thin) slices of unadulterated pork belly. With the panchan that total around 12-14, you also get a bowl of rice, marinated scallions, a healthy bowl of not-too-spicy broth and several dipping options for the meat. I'm kinda getting hungry again. This is bad.
Here are some pics that I found that was from my first excursion to the restaurant in May of last year (it's pretty much the same thing now, as it should be, because you don't fuck with something that's working):
The restaurant has two locations, but I've only been to the one in Bayside. The addresses are:
Ham Ji Bak [Bayside] 210-22 Northern Blvd, between 210th and 211th Sts Bayside, Queens, NY 11361
Ham Ji Bak [Flushing ]41-08 149th Pl, at 41st Ave Flushing, Queens, NY 11355
I've embedded a map for their Bayside location for you because I'm cool like that:
I don't really know what to say, as I'm quite ambivalent about the whole dining experience. This could be because I was completely wasted when I arrived at the restaurant, but I doubt it...but possibly maybe. I do have to say that the first three courses of our tasting menu were exceptionally phenomenal...but the restaurant's signature braised short ribs had much more left to be desired, as the mustard sauce we had was truly overbearing. The whole experience was greatly anticipated, as I had been wanting to dine at Cafe Gray for quite some time - about six months...probably longer. But even though I had built up the moment in my head, it did meet my expectations, specifically food-wise, whereas the service was barely par for the course. My only regret is having tossed the contents of our dessert course and petits-fours, which we were given to take home in several containers, into the middle of the street somewhere around Union Square. I don't even know why we were in that vicinity, let alone how I remember that we were...but yeah...it's been about two weeks since then and I think I'm finally letting it go.
So, would I suggest someone to check out Cafe Gray? Depends on who's asking. (edit: Actually, yeah...if you can afford to go, I would say give it a shot.)
On a relevant sidenote, Chef Gray Kunz, recently opened Grayz. The interior is beautiful and elegant and pure class. The menu is abbreviated, but there are enough dishes to whet appetites. All I've got to say is that they should have a live jazz band play. Here's the Brunski's review of the joint (Link).
Actually, here's a mini review I wrote up on November 30, 2007:
"was at grayz last night.
had a few drinks and grayz oyster rockefeller. the oysters were kush oysters, from washington. unbelievably fresh...melted like butter in my mouth.
the place is smashing.
the drinks were mucho dinero (which i guess is obvious).
chef kunz was in the house.
i was there primarily for drinks...but wanted to get at least one food item.
they had a white truffle pizza ($185) that i was contemplating, but thought better of it.
they had jazz playing on the house speakers. imo, they should get a live jazz ensemble that'll play for food and booze...so then at least the establishment can justify jamesons for $14 and $15 cocktails and have that true speakeasy vibe.
all in all, i'd much rather go to cafe gray if i'm going to get food...but if you're in the hood and feel sophisticated, yet laid-back...grayz is a nice and quaint little joint to grab a few drinks and hit your next spot for the night."
One other thing I should've mentioned in the above review, which Bruni had mentioned, is the inconsistency in chair and table height.
It's great to go back and to hear about my mentor's mentors and their influences. In this case, Norman Cook a.k.a. Fatboy Slim presents a Legends show...and this hour of music and stories pretty much captures a lot of my own influences and also brings a smile to my face.
1. The Clash - Guns of Brixton 2. The Damned - New Rose 3. Isley Jasper Isley - Caravan of Love 4. Charming Bells - Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb 5. John Peel Theme - The Housemartins A Cappella Version 6. Freakpower naked in session on Mark Radcliffe '95 7. Cornershop - Brimful of Asha (Fatboy Slim Remix) 8. Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Remix - Edit) 9. Bumblebee Slim - We Gonna Break Em Down 10. Chemical Brothers - Leave Home (Brothers Gonna Work It Out) 11. Cheeky Boy and A Cast Of Thousands - Once In A Plastic Time 12. Camille Yarborough - Take Yo' Praise 13. Zoe Ball Breakfast Show Aug '98 - When Norman Met Zoe 14. Dave and Ansell Collins vs Public Enemy - Bring The Elephant Trot (Mash Up) 15. Fatboy Slim vs Eminem - Fatboy Slim Shady (Mash Up)
(That's Beck - Midnite Vultures if you're having trouble deciphering the letters)
It's really, really good and I believe timeless. It may have flown under the radar, or it could be everyone else knows about it and I'm the only loser that doesn't...but in any case, that's what this blog is for - to spread the goods. So if you haven't, get it and listen. I accept thanks in the form of bottles of Jameson.
Sunday Morning Mixing Session - 26/08/07
1) Franck Roger - Turn Me Over - Earthrumental Music
2) Tommy Four Seven - Smoke (Random Factor Remix) - Brique Rouge
3) Don Mac- Ariba - Superfreq Records
4) Depeche Mode - Behind The Wheel (Peter Black Bootleg) - White Label
5) Praise Cats - Shined On Me (Skylark Vocal) - PIAS Recordings
6) Swag - '85 - Versionmusic
7) Justin Martin - Hoopty - Utensil Recordings
8) Marc Romboy vs. Blake Baxter - The Club (Version 1) - Systematic Recordings
9) Aerotecnica - All The Time (Earth Deuley Mix) - Aerotenica Recordings
10) Francois DuBois - I Try (Nic Fanciulli Remix) - Urbantorque Music